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Dr. Marc van Iersel to receive D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Research

Portrait of Marc van Iersel

The D.W. Brooks Faculty Award for Excellence in Research was established in 1983 to honor University of Georgia alumnus D.W. Brooks who devoted his professional life to improving the quality of society through continued service and support of agriculture, agribusiness, and the environment. Mr. Brooks was a graduate and faculty member of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Dr. Marc van Iersel, Dooley Professor of Horticulture, has been named the 2019 awardee. The award recognizes Dr. van Iersel’s research in drought stress physiology and irrigation control. Dr van Iersel says ‘Although I am the one who will get this award, many, many people contributed to my success. There have been many graduate students and visiting scientists who did most of the hard work. And many colleagues without whom my group could not have achieved what we did. My contribution to all of this was simple: find good people, provide guidance when needed, and more than anything, stay out of their way!’

To read more abut the award, please see:

To learn more about Dr. van Iersel’s lab, please visit


Hort Farm Open House – Free Online Registration – October 4, 2019

UGA Horticulture Farm Open House

October 4, 2019 – 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM
UGA Durham Horticulture Farm
1221 Hog Mountain Rd, Watkinsville, GA

Cost: Before October 1 at 5PM EST – FREE

Online Registration
After October 1 – On-site registration only – $15 (check or cash only)

* Donations will be accepted to benefit the UGA Horticulture Club


Topics and Speakers:

Breeding Pavonia for Southern Landscapes
Yongjun Yue and Dr. John Ruter
The genus Pavonia has potential to be used as ornamental plants because they are drought tolerant and flower consistently during the summer months in the southeastern United States. Pavoniaspecies we are working with are: P. hastata, P. lasiopetala, and P. missionum. Traditional and mutation breeding, as well as chromosome doubling are being utilized to develop novel growth forms, flower colors, and sterility so plants don’t reseed in the garden.

New Woody Plants from UGA
Dr. Donglin Zhang, Jordan Baylor
After returning to his beloved UGA seven years ago, Dr. Zhang and his students have worked on improving many woody species. Donglin and Jordan will show you some potential new woody plants for your gardens and landscapes.

Evaluation of New and Old Muscadine and Winegrape Cultivars in the Georgia Piedmont
Dr. Cain Hickey
University breeding programs have historically and recently produced muscadine and winegrape cultivars that are highly sought after by commercial growers. Cultivars were purposefully developed for specific attributes such as consumer preference and/or pest tolerance. The performance of these cultivars are being evaluated by the UGA Extension Viticulture Team through applied research trials located at the Durham Horticulture Farm.

Landscape Establishment, Pruning, and Mulching Studies
Dr. Tim Smalley
Do Hydrosource Hydrogels Reduce the Need for Fertilization of Salvia. Hydrogels absorb water and fertilizer. This study examines the effect of Hydrosource hydrogel on growth of Salvai at the recommended rate of fertilization and the reduced rate of fertilization.

Rejuvenation pruning practices. This is a long-term study comparing the effect of thinning main shoots of Loropetalum yearly versus cutting the shoots to knee level yearly.

Effect of mulching on survival of boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens). Plants were irrigated at two different levels and mulched or unmatched to determine the effect of excess soil moisture on the survival boxwood inoculated with Phytophthora.

New Ornamentals – A UGA/CANR Cooperative Effort
Dr. Matthew Chappell, Brian Jernigan, Mike McCorkle
In 2014, the Center for Applied Nursery Research and the University of Georgia Department of Horticulture initiated a joint effort to develop new woody ornamentals for the nursery industry. Those efforts have resulted in several newly introduced ornamental cultivars including gardenias, loropetalum, and camellia. We’ll describe the process of creating and evaluating these new cultivars, and even give away a few plants via raffle drawings at lunch.

Registration link:

Viticulture Graduate Student Wins National Scholarship



Congratulations to UGA Horticulture Graduate student, Miss Rachael White, who has been awarded the very prestigious American Wine Society Educational Foundation Scholarship. This is a national, and very competitive scholarship that comes with a $3500 award. Rachel works with Dr. Cain Hickey our state Viticulture Extension Specialist. Rachael has several research projects that are supporting wine grape productivity for the Georgie wine industry.  Congratulations Miss Rachael and Dr. Hickey!

Dr. Cain Hickey Recognized by National Industry.


Congratulations are in order for our colleague Dr. Cain Hickey, who has been selected by a panel of industry experts as a member of the Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2019! Cain is our Extension Viticulture Specialist. This honor is reserved exclusively for outstanding young industry professionals who are demonstrating exceptional commitment to making their mark in the industry through innovation and leadership. Cain will be featured, along with the rest of the Class of 2019, in the October 2019 issues of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News. He will also be honored at an event during the 2019 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in December. Congratulations colleague on this distinguished honor!

Horticulture Extension Specialists Receive Innovation Grant Awards

Two University of Georgia Extension Specialists in the Department of Horticulture have been selected to receive Extension Innovation Grants.  These grants are established to promote unique and innovative Extension research for projects that need seed funding to get them started,  or have a very specific focus that may not be covered under other outside granting agencies.  Dr. Cain Hickey, Extension Viticulture Specialist’s project is titled “Establishment of a Chardonel and Chambourcin vineyard for performance of own-roots and rootstocks in a region conducive to Pierce’s disease infection and vine death.”  Dr. Bodie Pennisi’s project is titled “Putting the P’s in IPM: Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management Hands-on.”  Well done colleagues!




Professor Pennisi Receives Public Service and Outreach Fellowship

Dr. Bodie Pennisi, Professor of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has been awarded a 2019-2020 Public Service and Outreach Fellowship.  Bodie is stationed at the Griffin campus and is heavily involved in the landscape industry and urban pollinator work. Her fellowship revolves around an approved project that was competitive and reviewed by the committee that selects PSO fellowships. Her project is titled “Empowering the New Landscape Entrepreneur: Increasing Business Training and Peer Engagement.” We congratulate Dr. Pennisi on this outstanding recognition!

Mary Lewis Wins Broadus Browne Student Competition & Receives the Paul Ecke Jr. Award

Congratulations to Graduate Student Mary Lewis (M.S., Fall 2019) who was notified on March 27 that she finished First in the CAES Broadus Browne Research Competition in the Masters Level Division. This is a very competitive competition open to all students in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Her research involves development of interspecific hybrids of Asclepias spp. (Milkweed) as well as developing propagation and production protocols for the taxa.

But Mary wasn’t done with her accolades! On April 3,  she was notified that she had been awarded the 2019 Paul Ecke Jr. Award sponsored by the Ecke family through the American Floral Endowment. This is a huge National honor, and comes with a $10,000.00, two-year scholarship. Mary was recruited to UGA by Dr. Tim Smalley, our current interim chair and undergraduate advisor, mentored as an undergraduate by Dr. Paul Thomas, and blossomed into a fine young scientist under Dr. Matthew Chappell, her graduate advisor. Paul Ecke Jr. was a huge influence in the floriculture industry and fostered the development of the industry via providing funding, mentoring and friendship. Even after his passing, Paul Ecke Jr. is still shepherding young floriculturists. We are grateful for the Ecke Family for their support of young scientists, for The American Floral Endowment for managing the program so effectively, and for Mary and her diligent work that earned her this scholarship and makes our department and all our Hort Dawgs look good! 



Marc van Iersel named UGA’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year

Dr. Marc van Iersel

The University of Georgia Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes a faculty member who has started a company based on research originated at UGA. Marc van Iersel was named the 2019 winner of this prestigious award. Marc van Iersel is the Vincent J. Dooley Professor of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and has spent more than 20 years supporting the horticulture industry through his research examining crop physiology and smart greenhouse production systems. A pioneer in optimizing controlled environment agriculture, van Iersel was elected as a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2018, recognizing his lifetime contributions to the horticulture industry. In 2017, he and colleague Erico Mattos co-founded Candidus Inc., a UGA agtech startup that is delivering customized lighting solutions for greenhouse agriculture, maximizing plant growth while minimizing electricity costs. Candidus’ novel technology creates predictability for growers by providing consistent lighting, which yields stronger, healthier plants. In addition to his role as CTO of Candidus, van Iersel served as mentor and advisor of UGA startup Reservoir LLC, a wireless irrigation company with a patent-pending sensor designed to improve irrigation efficiency.

UGA Horticulture Students Attend GGIA Capitol Day

On Wednesday, February 27, UGA Students got off to an early start to goin GA Green Industry Association board members at the State Capitol. We beat many legislators to their offices but still had some great visits with some of the folks who matter most. We followed that up with a visit with Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black who shared some fantastic news and had some words of advice for the students. “Shoot for perfection and you’ll achieve excellence every time.” If you know how hard Gary works for Ag in Georgia, you know these are more than just words to him.

Pictured below are GGIA members and UGA Horticulture Students presenting Governor Kemp with a Berkman print of Augusta National. He seemed genuinely surprised and didn’t know the history behind the print – which was a perfect horticultural history lesson.

Horticulture Graduate Students Impress at SR-ASHS

A number of graduate students from the Department of Horticulture presented their research at the annual Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Sciences meeting in Birmingham, AL this past weekend.

Mary Lewis was awarded 3rd place in the Norman F. Childers M.S. Graduate Student Paper competition for her presentation entitled “Assessing Hybridization Compatibility within and Among Asclepias spp.”

Jorge Reyes was awarded 3rd place in the Warren S. Barham Ph.D Graduate Student Paper Competition for this presentation entitled “Detection of the Gummy Stem Blight-Causing Pathogens (Stagonosporopsis spp.) in Watermelon Using Species-Specific LAMP Assays.

Congratulation to Mary and Jorge, and all the participants.

Jorge Reyes (Ph.D candidate) receiving his award